Before Theresa May announced the snap election, the UK news cycle was dominated by Prince Harry talking about how losing his mother had impacted his mental health.
Giles Coren, writing in the Times (April 22nd 2017) was scathing: ‘Do we really need Prince Harry to de-stigmatise mental illness? … I can’t think of a pop star or actor who hasn’t talked about their depression or anxiety.’
As someone who has struggled with depression since my early teens, I’m grateful to anyone willing to go public with what still feels like a slightly shameful thing to confess. Although, according to a 2016 report, nearly half of adults believe they’ve had a diagnosable mental health problem at some point during their lifetime, there is still stigma to be overcome.
You may or may not be aware that next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme is ‘Surviving or Thriving?’ Mark Rowland, Director of Fundraising and Communications for the campaign explains, ‘We are flipping the focus away from mental ill-health to exploring how we can cultivate good mental health … Human beings are probably the most resilient creatures on the planet. Through countless setbacks, we have learnt how to survive but we are only now starting to understand how to thrive.’
Here are three of the strategies I’ve developed as a Christian to cultivate good mental health, alongside medication and therapy:
1. Commit to a Christian community
One of the great gifts (and challenges) of being a Christian is belonging to a church family. Close relationships make life bearable.
2. Memorise as much of the Bible as you can
Jesus fought off the devil with Scripture. When our minds are infused with biblical truth we have a better chance of defeating destructive thoughts and remaining strong through setbacks.
3. Develop a habit of gratitude
Thanking God with regularity and sincerity is not only the right thing to do, but it can change your entire outlook. There is always something we can be grateful for.
Sometimes, even survival seems impossibly hard. If this is you, today, I pray you will hold on in blind faith, because we’ve been promised an end to our suffering. One day the last tear will be wiped away and we will be whole and happy in God’s presence for all eternity. (Revelation 21: 1-4)
Jo is an author, speaker and the editor of Preach magazine. Her latest book, Home: the quest to belong (Hodder) is out in June. She blogs at www.joswinney.com and tweets as @JoSwinney